Government making strides in fee-free tertiary education drive
Minister of Higher Education and Training Naledi Pandor briefed the media on Tuesday morning about the progress made in implementing fee-free tertiary education.
There are still challenges the department needs to “iron out” said Pandor, one of which is teething problems with the NSFAS’s new “student centred model”, which was implemented last year.
Pandor said the department has made strides in government providing additional funding for students from poor and working class families to the tune of R7.166-billion. Funding of R4.582-billion has been allocated for universities and R2.585-billion to technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges.
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) will also get an increase from R9.849-billion in 2017-2018 to R35.321-billion in 2020/2021, said Pandor. A further R105-million has been allocated “to increase and strengthen its administrative capacity”.
“So what has changed? Government will support poor and working class students through an expanded bursary scheme.
That replaces the previous loan and partial bursary scheme. Although first time entering students will not have to pay back the cost their bursary. They will be expected to meet certain conditions and expectations including those related to satisfactory academic performance and service conditions,” said Pandor.
Some of the ways government will be supporting poor and working class students is through the provision of food, accommodation and transport.
Pandor said approximately 50 480 TVET colleges students will qualify for accomodation and food, with a further 82 600 qualifying for transport allowances.
However, with the department’s success, there have been challenges.
In 2017, NSFAS migrated to the new “student-centred model” which would see students only apply once for funding instead of each year until they complete their studies. The system promises to open a direct line of communication between the student and NSFAS, with students able to access allocated allowances directly through the sBux system and NSFAS able to check on the student’s academic performance.
However, the migration to the new model has led to several challenges with many students criticizing the programme at the start of the academic year, because they had not received their NSFAS funding or allowances payments.
Pandor has called on all academic institutions to work with her department and NSFAS to deal with students who have not yet received their funding. The key, the department said, is to make sure the system works.
Following former president Jacob Zuma’s announcement that government would offer fee-free education to poor and working class students, those who are currently enrolled in NSFAS will have their loans converted to grants when they graduate. If students drop out of university, the grant will be written off. Pandor insisted the department has put measures in place to help students to successfully complete their studies.
A student can qualify for a bursary that covers both tuition and learning materials if their families are earning a gross combined annual income of R350 000 or less.
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